GENEVA – Much of the extreme weather that wreaked havoc in Asia, Europe and the Pacific region last year can be blamed on human-induced climate change, the U.N. weather agency says.
The World Meteorological Organization's annual assessment Monday said 2013 was the sixth-warmest year on record. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century.
A rise in sea levels is leading to increasing damage from storm surges and coastal flooding, as demonstrated by Typhoon Haiyan, the agency's Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. The typhoon in November killed at least 6,100 people and caused $13 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam.
Australia, meanwhile, had its hottest year on record.
"Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," Jarraud said.
He also cited other costly weather disasters such as $22 billion damage from central European flooding in June, $10 billion in damage from Typhoon Fitow in China and Japan, and a $10 billion drought in much of China.
Only a few places -- including the central U.S. --were cooler than normal last year, but 2013 had no El Nino, the warming of the central Pacific that happens once every few years and changes rain and temperature patterns around the world.
Jarraud spoke as top climate scientists and representatives from about 100 governments with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met in Japan to complete their latest report on global warming's impact on hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war.
Speaking in Geneva, Jarraud drew special attention to studies and climate modeling examining Australia's recent heat waves, saying the high temperatures there would have been virtually impossible without the emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas.
"It is not possible to reproduce these heat waves in the models if you don't take into account human influence," he said.